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The Jays might not be off to the best start (don’t panic yet, we still have time to turn it around) but Claire Eccles is heating up. The 19 year-old just got signed by the Victoria HarbourCats and is the first Canadian woman in the West Coast League. Yes, this is a huge deal.

First of all, she’s Canadian, which already makes her pretty fantastic in our book. Second, she’s a knuckleball pitcher, which is one of the hardest pitches to throw. Third, while this may not be major league baseball, it’s actually kind of close. The 11-team circuit consists of Canadian and American male university players and some have been drafted by major league clubs. This puts Eccles in a great position where she’ll be visible to major league teams. Yeah, sounds like the premise of Pitch to us.

Eccles told CTV that she set her sights on the major leagues at an early age, but she’s lowered them a little since her mother pointed out the gender barrier. It’s not an impossible hurdle, but very improbable.

‘I don’t think she was trying to crush my dreams. She was just trying to be realistic,’ Eccles said.

Although sexism is still alive and well throughout sports, there are quite a few people who just see talent. People like Eccles’ new manager, Brad Norris-Jones.

‘A hundred per cent Claire is good enough to play on our team,’ he said, ‘We’re just going to get everyone involved and show that in 2017 this isn’t different, this isn’t weird. It’s normal.’

Eccles was at first skeptical that her signing would just be a good publicity stunt for the team. She wanted to make sure she would have equal opportunity to play, and not just be a showpiece.

‘You have to wonder: ‘Is this just for their own publicity?” she said, “Brad said I’d get fair opportunities and it’s not just for show.’ We certainly hope so. And it looks like she won’t be alone in the clubhouse either.

‘I’ll be tagging along with her,’ says the HarbourCats’ female assistant general manager, ‘Her and I can go through this process together.’ The team was also the first in the league to hire a female general manager. Looks like there’s a trend forming here.

Claire’s dreams might have become more moderate, but we’re still setting our sights on the major leagues. It would be pretty cool to see a woman out there on the big stage. Plus, that woman would be Canadian. Come on, you can’t blame us for dreaming.

 

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